January 5, 2008

What is Video?

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:05 am

I don’t know if 2008 is to be the year of video and I won’t attempt to make any predictions but I do think we need to consider what video is. It’s a term to describe a wide variety of genres and formats that only have in common a file extension at best. I know that some think that digital video is a fancy name for Film making. I do see a difference and think that there may be some value in distinguished these differences. Scanning youtube I noticed some common styles/genres. While these are basically how I distinguish between the genre, others may have a different way to categorize.

  • Talking head video  We’re seeing more of this with the advent of vlogs, Ustream, Skype, etc. I don’t have a problem with it. Depending on the circumstance, length, it can add to a message. Dave Cormier’s efforts to do a daily video for 2008 is an example of value added blogging. Webcams now provide a high quality image so this makes the experience better. There are many bad examples on sites like Ustream where people turn on their cameras and just ramble.
  • Screencasts Tools like Jing and Camtasia make this pretty simple. We’re even seeing some innovations beyond the basic tutorial approach. Here’s one about photoshop that offers a unique approach and some humor as well.
  • Caught on tape   Cellphones and Net Sharing type cameras have helped people go directly to video after capturing live events. Certainly many of the best viral videos are simply a case of being at the right place at the right time. This will likely be the most popular genre. Even scripted video might fit into this category if it’s shot in one take and uploaded with no editing. The bride hair cut video is a classic example, although it appears to be a spontaneous event. The low quality resolution of these devices, in particular cellphones can be distracting but in many ways adds to its “viralness”. With no editing, it speaks more about the event than the work of the videographer. Yet now most phones come with video editing software on the phone itself so we may see this format evolve even further.
  • The Slide Show  Probably the most popular format. Gather a collection of photos, add some music and there you have it. Often a very nice way to capture a moment in time. This however, is generally over used and is often best suited to use for a target audience like family or perhaps a classroom. If however, you include narration, from a well designed script, this is the best way to begin introducing students to video. It requires less equipment and horsepower so almost any computer can produce a nice product.
  • The Text Presentation  This is basically the typical powerpoint presentation converted to video. Karl Fisch’s original Did You Know might be the best example.  This is usually a good fit for those who grew up in a text bias world. They tend to relate well to this approach. I think this is hard to do well without some real understanding that text can be a visual medium.  A simple uploaded of a bullet ladened presentation doesn’t cut it. If the creator understands that text must be designed with visual considerations, it can be a powerful medium.
  • The Mash Up  This takes advantage of existing footage where the creator remixes content to tell a new story. I blogged about this recently.  With sites like GorillaSpot, this may be the best place to start with students.
  • The Edited Movie  This is what I’d consider the purest of video. This is the planned, scripted, edited use of moving images. Definitely the most time consuming and there is really no way around it; quality takes time. Most classrooms aren’t willing to devote the time necessary to produce this type of work. Instead, students who produce this, are doing it on their own and learning from the work of others. While this is good, teachers can play a role in moving students to better quality if they begin to engage in learning about what constitutes good work.

So what’s important here is that we choose the method that’s more appropriate for the message. I’ve used all of these methods from time to time but I am bias towards anything that requires a script or at least some editing. I rarely post a picture to flickr without at least an “autofix”, rename and tag.  It just seems to me that we need to be thinking about the quality of work that we share. This blog post does have at least one key idea and certainly offers a perspective worth considering when it comes to writing. One of the other key considerations is length of video. Just like we struggle with the length of posting text online, the same considerations must be used for video. We’ve definitely moved to shorter forms of communication in both writing, speaking and viewing. Like it or not, it’s a fact. So helping students create meaningful pieces, either written or visual is challenging. Educators often value quantity, the web values conciseness. As more and more of our content is going straight online, this is a key issue. We haven’t been all that critical or concerned about video because we haven’t done it enough to either understand what’s good or not or perhaps we’re just so thrilled that we can post anything that quality isn’t a big consideration. Maybe being able to distinguish using these categories can help structure and design more effective learning experiences.

Image: 3692018.05 by torres21

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